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Thousand of old speed limit signs removed and scrapped after 20mph switch

Signs for 20mph in Newport city centre (Pic: Google)

MORE than a thousand road signs were taken down and either salvaged or scrapped in Caerphilly and Newport when Wales’ new 20mph laws came into force.

Many speed limit signs became redundant after the switch, when the Welsh Government lowered the default speed limit on most roads in built-up areas from 30mph to 20mph.

Councils across Wales collectively received millions of pounds to cover the costs of taking down old signs and putting up new ones to remind drivers of the new speed limit on so-called restricted roads – typically described as roads with street lights at every 200 metres or less.

A Freedom of Information Act request to Caerphilly County Borough Council shows 1,110 signs were removed as part of the switchover.

“We have aimed to salvage as many signs as possible that were of good condition,” the council said in its response to the information request. “As we do not have an abundant space for storage, we have not been able to stock all the ‘good condition’ signs that have been taken down and these have been presented as scrap waste for processing.”

A similar request to Newport City Council did not uncover the exact number of redundant signs, but the local authority followed a similar inspection process to that in Caerphilly.

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“All signs removed resulting from the Welsh Government change in the default speed limit were inspected, and where found to be in a condition where they may be reused in future maintenance programs or new schemes, have been retained and put into storage,” the city council said in response to the request. 

“Those signs deemed to be redundant, were disposed of by our term contractor as part of the work instruction for their removal. 

“Our contractors are obligated to dispose of redundant materials responsibly and are recycled where the material permits this.”

The switch to 20mph default speed limits came into effect on September 17, with police forces saying they would first generally try to educate drivers breaking the law, before introducing penalties.

The Welsh Government said it had introduced the lower speed limit to “reduce the number of collisions and severe injuries from them”, and to “make our streets safer”.

The introduction of the policy has proved controversial, however. Calls to scrap the change to 20mph became the Senedd’s most-signed petition ever, and drivers opposing the switch held several go-slow protests on major roads such as the M4 around Newport in the autumn.